This is how young the Siena women’s basketball team is:
On Sunday, head coach Gina Castelli experimented with an all-freshman lineup against the veterans in a five-on-five scrimmage, and the freshman team actually had a bench.
The Saints, who are coming off their sixth straight losing season, have six freshmen and just six upperclassmen on their roster.
Castelli, who is starting her 21st season as the Siena coach, said she wouldn’t be comfortable sending the freshmen out on the floor in bunches, but the Saints are going to need them to contribute, and she expects that the young players will see plenty of action, out of necessity, but also because she likes their talent.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to rely on all six of them at one time,” Castelli said with a laugh. “If we can get just a couple sprinkled in there, it’ll be good, but if we have to rely on all six of them, that could get scary.”
Castelli introduced her 2010-11 team during the annual media day at the Alumni Recreation Center on Monday.
One thing the freshmen bring that is indisputable is an infusion of height. The 6-foot-1 Clara Sole Anglada of Barcelona, Spain, in particular, has stood out.
“It’s hard even for me sometimes to post up on her,” said senior forward Serena Moore, who averaged 13.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season and clearly is the Saints’ best player.
“Clara’s really good,” senior co-captain Cathy Cockrum said. “She’s really physical on the court. She gets a lot of boards and really sticks after plays. We’re expecting a lot out of her this year, and she’s improved so much from when we first saw her when she made her visit in the summer.”
“All of them, in certain spots, I’m comfortable with, but all together? No,” Castelli said. “We did that yesterday, and they did well. They’ve all shown pockets at different times that they’re going to be really good. Some of them have shown it more than others. Some of them are a little more intimidated, because the upperclassmen are always telling them where to go. This made them think on their own, and it was
really good, probably one of the better ones we’ve had of five-on-five. They looked at each other and tried to help each other out, rather than listening to one upperclassmen.
“The objective was, let’s just try this.”
Siena will be relying heavily on Moore this season, and she’s in position to garner all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference honors.
To bolster her inside game, she worked on developing a mid-range jumper during the summer.
“I was always confident in my shot, I was just nervous about taking it,” she said. “Working on it this summer was the biggest thing. Coach kept saying, ‘We need more shooting from you and it’s going to add a lot more to your game.’ I’ve been hearing that since high school, so I finally got into it.
“A lot of it is off-the-dribble shots. I worked on driving, penetrating, not always relying on trying to get to the basket, but also, at times, being able to take it off the dribble and pop the shot.”
“If she has a little bit of a jumper, they have to come out on her, and if they come out on her, she can go off the dribble,” Castelli said. “I’m sure most people are going to still play her like they did last year. She’s a lot smarter this year and understands how she can post up, even with that scenario. She’s so athletic that she can definitely be one of the better players in this league. Being consistent every game, though, is how you become one of the best players in the league, you have to come out hard every night.”
The Saints lost three-point shooter Allie Lindemann to graduation, but Castelli said she expects junior Maja Gerlyng to step into that role.
With Merrick Volpe graduated, junior Cristina Centeno will move back into the point guard position, which she played extensively as a freshman.
“That’s [Lindemann] a big loss, but Maja has always been a player who we thought could shoot the three,” Castelli said. “Her percentage, even last year, was pretty good. She has to stay healthy, which has always been her thing. She’s doing outstanding. She came back in really good shape, and is definitely someone we’ll be counting on.”
Siena has a schedule that is favorable to a team with so many young players.
The Saints open at home against Navy on Nov. 12, and play four more at home before going on the road at Binghamton on Dec. 7.
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